Rudy Giuliani, courting the Republican rank and file in an important state, sought Saturday to make the case that his vision for the future and performance in the past makes him a strong candidate for the GOP presidential nomination.
"The government's got to work in order for the American people to have confidence in it," the former New York City mayor said. "And I believe there is something I can do about that."
"Leadership is about vision and performance," Giuliani told state GOP activists. Voters, he said, should hold each candidate to that standard when deciding where to throw their support. "Who has the vision and who can perform? Because you need both."
"You can ultimately judge whatever I promise you and whatever vision that I have by the things that I've done," Giuliani said.
In his first visit to the state since he formed a presidential exploratory committee late last year, Giuliani sounded and acted very much like a full-fledged White House candidate in 2008 even as he repeatedly insisted he has not made a final decision.
"Every day you get closer, but we don't have a timetable yet," he told reporters. He said there was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and a lot of people signaling their support. But, he said, he has to decide whether he can make "unique contribution" to help strengthen the country.
In line with his campaign strategy, Giuliani emphasized his tenure as mayor of what was once a crime-ridden city in financial disrepair and his steady hand in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists struck.
'I made it happen'
He hopes to convince voters that his record of leadership in difficult times trumps any concerns they may have about his moderate stances on social issues such as gun control, abortion and gay rights. Those are potential liabilities in a GOP presidential primary in which hard-core conservatives are a central voting group.
"When I say to you that we should reduce taxes to stimulate an economy, I'll say it to you because I did it - and I saw it work," he said. "When I say to you we have to bring peace and security - whether its in Baghdad, or in other parts of the world, or here at home - I'll say that to you because I saw that happen in New York and I made it happen."
Accompanied by his wife, Giuliani dropped in at a breakfast for state GOP committee members before addressing them at the historic Palace Theater in the heart of Manchester.
An unannounced stop at a nearby restaurant to shake hands capped his visit on a bitterly cold weekend a full year before the state holds its GOP presidential primary, the first in the nation.
Warm reception, crowded race
The state's Republican faithful greeted Giuliani warmly. They swarmed him to say hello and shake his hand. Some chanted "Rudy. Rudy." They shoved copies of his best-selling book, "Leadership," in front of him for an autograph.
"I was very impressed. He did very well," said Will Infantine of Manchester, a GOP committee member who is not aligned with a candidate.
"His performance was absolutely outstanding," added David Hess, the deputy Republican leader of the New Hampshire House who also is unaffiliated.
"He's very charismatic," agreed Natalie Healy of Exeter, another committee member. State Rep. Mary Griffin of Windham called him "exceptional." Still, they - like many others at the meeting - were unwilling to commit just yet. They said it was too early in the process.
Indeed, in a sign of the accelerated pace of the race, Giuliani's speech collided with visits from other GOP presidential contenders or their surrogates.
Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, a long-shot candidate, introduced himself to party faithful at the meeting. Few - if any - people recognized him.
Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, another dark horse, also was in the state, and a handful of his supporters stood holding signs outside as Giuliani spoke.
Down the street, one of Arizona Sen. John McCain's top backers, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., hosted a luncheon for activists.